Hawaiʻi will become the first state in the nation to accommodate for the hearing and visually impaired at movie theaters statewide under a law that goes into effect in the New Year.
House Bill 1272 was introduced by Kauaʻi Representative James Tokioka, and was signed into law by Governor David Ige.
The measure requires anyone that operates a motion picture theater in more than two locations in the state to provide open captioning during at least two showings per week of each motion picture that is produced with open movie captioning. It also requires them to provide an audio description of any motion picture that is produced and offered with audio description.
The measure takes effect Jan. 1, 2016 and sunsets Jan. 1, 2018.
State officials say the law allows equal access to movie theaters for the deaf, blind, deaf/blind and hard-of-hearing communities. It also brings Hawaiʻi closer to achieving full inclusion for deaf and blind communities that was first initiated with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
State officials say the law “removes communication barriers” and “provides equal access to persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have poor vision” through “reasonable accommodations” at movie theaters. Supporters of the measure say it will also help seniors who have trouble hearing, as well as individuals who are learning English as a second language by providing the written dialogue on screen.
The new law will be celebrated with the showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2016 at 12:15 p.m. at the Ward Theatres in Honolulu. The pioneering event, hosted in partnership with the Aloha State Association of the Deaf, features the first open captioning and audio description movie showings for deaf and visually impaired movie goers.